With spring comes the official start of wedding season; I’m writing this as I wait for a flight home from my first of six (yes, six!) weddings in as many months. With more engagement parties, showers, bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners, ceremonies, and receptions coming up than I can count on fingers and twos, it seems only natural that I’ve got everything wedding on my mind—and on my reading stack.
I read The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan (author of Maine and Commencement) when it first came out in 2013, but plan to revisit it again in the midst of this year of weddings. Sullivan’s work is smart and on-point as it explores how the diamond became the undying symbol of love and weddings through the lens of four different takes on relationships and marriage from the 1950s through today. As with her earlier novels, The Engagements is thoughtful and well-written and packed with important meditations on love and family.
After that re-read, I’m looking at Maggie Shipstead’s Seating Arrangements, which Sullivan herself called “both wickedly smart and impossible to put down, a true summer pleasure.” The novel—Shipstead’s debut—promises a social satire set on a New England island as a large and well-to-do family prepares for the wedding of their daughter. Sullivan has also praised Jennifer Close’s Girls in White Dresses, a New-York based novel that explores life as a twenty-something in the city as a group of friends tackle heartbreak and adulthood amidst an endless cycle of bridal showers, bachelorettes, and wedding weekends. Also on my list is The Singles by Meredith Goldstein, another wedding-centric debut novel. Goldstein approaches the ever-sticky issue of the wedding date with a story of five single friends who decline one bride’s generous offer to bring a plus-one along for the celebrations.
Jen Doll’s memoir, Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest, explores many of the same subjects as these novels but with a non-fiction bent. Doll looks back across the many weddings she has attended as a guest to reflect on the place of love and relationships in contemporary life. Time Magazine calls the book “a smart examination of just how weird weddings can be when put under the microscope,” which sounds all too spot-on to me. Then, of course there’s Hana Shanck’s A More Perfect Union: How I Survived the Happiest Day of My Life, which tells one woman’s story of the insanity of wedding planning. Part memoir, part social critique… I think I may be just about ready for this one now, five years after my own “happiest day.”